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Art of Liberation: Performing Change

January 17-19, 2024


This event is free but registration is requested.

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In addition to commemorating the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Pannel Center's 2024 MLKJ Celebration will examine and celebrate the role of the arts in our continuing struggle for complete liberation. Dr. King showed us, through the art forms of speeches and letters, the power of creativity to engage imaginations for the sake of justice. Join us for three days of reflection on the legacy of Dr. King and the arts to uplift the community and release liberative expression.


Keynote Speaker

Stanley TalbotDr. Stanley Talbert is an assistant professor of Religion at Pepperdine University in Malibu,
California. Talbert completed his PhD at Union Theological Seminary in New York, with disciplinary emphases on Theology and African American Studies. His dissertation, "Playing in a Strange Land: A Revolutionary Theology of Play," examines the emergence of modern racism as a re-creation of human bodies and relations constructed through the entanglement of play, sport, and theology. Dr. Talbert is the last PhD student of Dr. James H. Cone.

Talbert is author of "Unveiling Radical Love: A Theological Reflection on Radical Love in
the Age of Ferguson," in Reconciliation Reconsidered (2016). He has published articles on theology, race, and culture in the Journal for Religion, Film, and Media, The Huffington Post, Ebony, The Union Collective and The African American Lectionary. Talbert is the recipient of the Carl R. Holladay Award with the Christian Scholars Foundation, the Louisville-Institute Doctoral Fellowship, the Forum for Theological Exploration Doctoral Fellowship, the Seaver Faculty Fellowship, the Wittenberg Fellowship (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany), Union Theological Seminary's Hudnut Preaching Award, the Charles Augustus Briggs Award, and the Academic Excellence Award. His accomplishments in ministry and theological education have been featured in "Faith3: Active in the Head, Heart, and Hand" and in Pepperdine magazine.

Stanley Talbert is managing editor for the Black Theology Papers Project at Columbia University and serves on the executive committee for the Society of Study of Black Religion and as a core member of the Clergy for Black Lives in Los Angeles. He has given lectures and presentations across the nation as well as in France, Germany, Senegal, and South Africa.

Jaclyn WilliamsDr. Jaclyn Williams (Panel Moderator)

Before joining Fuller's faculty in 2022, Jaclyn Williams served as an adjunct instructor in preaching and as an adjunct instructor for the Meachum School of Haymanot. She holds an MDiv from Fuller, an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program, and a BA in Theatre from the University of Houston. She completed her PhD in Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham (UK) in Fall 2022. Her current research interests include incarnational and embodied preaching, performing artist training as spiritual practice, and resiliency resources in pastoral and spiritual care practice.

Williams is an American Baptist-ordained minister and an Alliance of Baptists-endorsed chaplain. She has been awarded the Parish Pulpit Fellowship (Fuller), the Excellence in Community Service Award (Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church), and Emerging Artist Award (The Links, Incorporated). She has contributed articles to the Haymanot Journal, which is the official publication of the Society of Gospel Haymanot. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Academy of Homiletics, the Association of Professional Chaplains, the Alliance of Baptists, and the Society of Gospel Haymanot.

Williams has worked professionally as an actor, the words of August Wilson, Ntozake Shange, and Williams Shakespeare being some of her favorites to perform. Before her acting career, she trained in classical ballet with the City Ballet of Houston, also studying with the Joffrey Ballet and the Hartford Ballet. Today she views acting and dancing as hobbies, but she uses the skills she honed as a performing artist to enhance her pedagogical practice with students. She often speaks on the connections found between the process of craft as an artist and the process of discipleship as a follower of Christ.

As a preacher, chaplain, educator, and performing artist, Williams is always curious about what it means to holistically walk out a life of faith in all seasons. This curiosity fuels her time in research, practice, and teaching. She views the opportunity to acknowledge and accompany students, colleagues, and others as they follow their curiosities and convictions as an enormous gift.

Dea jenkinsDea Jenkins (Panelist)

Dea Jenkins is an interdisciplinary creative, independent curator, director of Inbreak, and founder of Dea Studios. Though originally from Houston, Texas, she and her family began moving cross-country when Jenkins was 10 years old, and she didn’t begin her journey with the arts until she moved back to Houston from Virginia after graduating high school. Through a series of life twists, Jenkins “accidentally” discovered an interest and a talent for art making.

As she discovered the world of painting, drawing, and graphic design, she ultimately chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in filmmaking from The Art Institute of Houston. Filmmaking taught her the value of producing. As a producer she discovered that she could create spaces to share her own work, but also generate opportunities for other creative minds to journey with her on these projects.

In 2017, Jenkins moved to Pasadena to pursue dual Master’s degrees in Theology and Intercultural Studies. Her education has grounded her artistic practice, helped her connect creative studies with theology, and prepared her to continue creating spaces for individual and collective healing. Post-graduation, she is engaging questions on spirituality, collective consciousness, and social healing through multiple mediums.

Melanie taylorMelanie Taylor (Panelist)

Melanie Taylor holds a BS in Sport Management from Union University, a Certificate from Georgetown University’s Faith and Justice Summer Academy, and an MA in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Since 2010 she has held roles in higher education, church ministry, historic preservation, and contracting with minority-owned businesses. While at Fuller, Taylor was part of the Multiethnic Ministries cohort and connected with the Pannell Center through the Emerging Black Scholars program and as a research assistant.

Taylor entered the museum field in 2022 as a Sports and Race Initiative curatorial intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; she is proud to now be contracting with the Museum as a curatorial assistant. She also serves as a resident minister at Georgetown University, part of an interfaith team providing on-campus support for students of any and no faith tradition. Taylor is intentional about investing in people of color by offering resources and pastoral support for their flourishing in predominantly white spaces. In her spare time she enjoys raising house plants, watching sports, and frequenting minority-owned businesses.

Tamisha TylerDr. Tamisha Tyler (Panelist)

Tamisha A. Tyler (she/her/hers) is a visiting assistant professor of Theology and Culture and of
Theopoetics at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana. Her research interests
include theopoetics, theology and the arts, Afrofuturism, Black popular culture, and science
fiction. Her dissertation, “Articulating Sensibilities: Methodologies in Theopoetics in
Conversation with Octavia E. Butler,” explores Butler’s work in the Parable Series as an
embodied, artistic, and theopoetic response to the theological, economic, and ecological
upheaval in Butler’s dystopian world. She is part of the Level Ground artist collective in Los
Angeles, and her work can be seen in Feminism in Religion’s blog and in Fuller Magazine. Her latest project explores religion in the literary world of Octavia Butler.

Eric WilliamsDr. Eric Williams (Panelist)

A native of Rockford, Illinois, Eric Lewis Williams holds a BA in Communications and Sociology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MA in Theological Studies from the McCormick Theological Seminary, an MDiv from Duke University, and a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Edinburgh. Alongside his academic accomplishments, Dr. Williams is an ordained minister of the Church of God in Christ.

Williams has taught theology, history, and African American studies at several institutions, including Western Theological Seminary, Ashland Theological Seminary (Detroit), Iowa State University, Shaw University, Virginia Union University, Boston College, and Harvard University. In addition to teaching, Williams served for nearly seven years as curator of religion for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, DC. In July 2023, Williams joined the teaching faculty of the Duke University School of Divinity. At Duke, Williams is assistant professor of Theology and Black Church Studies and director of the Office of Black Church Studies.

Williams’s current research examines the meaning of religion within African American history and culture, and the role and influences of African religions within the Atlantic world. Williams is a co-editor of the T&T Clark Handbook of African American Theology and is currently completing a manuscript that explores theological significations in African American Pentecostal thought.

Williams’s research and studies have taken him to the continents of Africa, South America, and Europe, extensively throughout the continental United States, Mexico, and to several islands of the Caribbean. Williams considers himself a transatlantic commuter, a collector of words, and an emergent jazz-man in the world of ideas.



10:00–11:00 am (PT): Chapel with Dr. Stanley Talbert
12:00–1:00 pm (PT): Lecture with Dr. Stanley Talbert, "Prophetic Play and the Art of Liberation"


12:00–1:30 pm (PT): Panel discussion, "Healing the Heart Through the Arts" (in partnership with Brehm Center)

Engage with a panel of African American liberators who have discovered and ignited creative ways of embodying their freedom. They have cultivated expressions of art and change as they continue to strive for complete liberation. As they navigate us through their vision of incorporating religion and culture with art, ponder what liberation and healing looks like for our community.

Panel Members

Dea Jenkins, Founder of Dea Studios

Melanie Taylor, Curatorial assistant for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Dr. Tamisha Tyler, Visiting assistant professor of Theology, Culture, and Theopoetics, Bethany Theological Seminary

Dr. Eric Williams, Assistant professor of Theology and Black Church Studies and director of the Office of Black Church Studies, Duke University Divinity School

Dr. Jaclyn Williams, Assistant professor of Chaplaincy and Preaching, Fuller


5:00–8:00 pm (PT): MLKJ Art Night Celebration

Join us in-person for a night to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the arts. We will enjoy spoken-word artists, singers, dancers, African drummers, and other artists. We invite those participating in person to share in creating your own art during the event to express how liberation can be embodied in your own life and community.

The Pannell Center provides indispensable, formational education—by building a body of Black leaders who believe in the power of the church, the community, and the culture.
We are the church. We are the community. We are the culture.
The William E. Pannell Center for Black Church Studies embraces a mission to proactively build and empower Black Christian leaders. By centering kingdom work, cultural enrichment, and academic rigor, the Pannell Center strives to cultivate a spirit of excellence through the development of global leaders on campus, in the church, and in our local communities.

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Save the Date

Join us next year for the 2025 MLKJ Celebration, to be held January 15–17, 2025.